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In tmux, I can press some key combination and split the current window into two windows in the same directory.

I've tried the split-window-* function, but found it just duplicates the same buffer in emacs, so you end up with two windows that are each mutually synced to be identical. Not exactly what I had in mind...

You can get around this using (eshell 'N), but that only seems to work for eshell. I think I found some more complicated approach involving renaming buffers for shell, but I still couldn't get it to automatically cd into the directory I was in at the time I split the window.

I found some approach suggested on the emacs wiki where you configure the prompt to show you your full directory and parse it.

https://www.emacswiki.org/emacs/ShellDirtrackByPrompt

It seemed strange that no one's come up with a better way to track what directory you're currently in than to send to the prompt and parse the result, so I figured I'd ask this one more time just in case something's changed or someone has a way to do this without the prompt parsing hack. Also, a lot of those prompt parsing hack solutions were suggested quite a while ago, and maybe something's new in Emacs 26 that solves this problem.

Ideally, I'd like to be able to track remote directories too, but I'd be relatively happy if I could just get this to work for local directories.

I'm still pretty new at emacs, but getting this part in place would make it a lot easier to switch over and make it my default development environment.

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I use shell pop to do what I think you are asking for. When I press Ctrl-t, it splits the window, creating a new buffer with a shell in that buffer set to the directory that matches the directory of the buffer I started in. When I press Ctrl-t again, it closes the window and shell it had opened.

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C-u M-x shell <ret> opens a shell in a new buffer in same location. It allows you to name the buffer or press <ret> for default: "shell 2". I thought that there should be a hydra that adds functionality to shell, such as you are after. But I can't find one.

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